RN: Kosovo & After


Jan Slakov

Dear RN list,           July 8

I'm sure many of us will not see the way the Kosovo war was touted as a
"humanitarian" war quite as John Keegan (and Hans Sinn) describe below.

But if we can put our outrage at the way the notion of humanitarianism was
debased in the war aside for a time, perhaps we can see that there are
indeed signs of hope in the way humanity seems to be groping toward an
understanding that armed conflict is something we must grow out of. (See the
next message for more on this.)

all the best, Jan

Date: Wed, 07 Jul 1999 16:31:07 -0400
From: Hans Sinn <•••@••.•••>
Subject: Kosovo and after

Dear Jan and friends,

Now that NATO had its way in the Serbian Kosovo-Albanian dispute the
question appears to be:
- Will Kosovo Albanians and Serbs manage to co-exist on the same territory and
- What lessons have been learned by the proponents and opponents of the
NATO bombing campaign?

For my own purposes I find John Keegan's understanding of the Balkan
nations and their history of warfare most helpful. I like to strongly
recommend his book "A History of Warfare" ,  Vintage Books, New York, 1993,
 432 pp).

John Keegan was for many years senior lecturer in military history at the
Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, England and views the Balkan conflict in
the broader context of 5000 years of warfare. Consequently Keegan seems to
be able to make some pretty accurate observations and predictions about the
Balkan situation (see pages 51 to 60).      

Keegan, who does not share the particular biases of our current public
information media, notes: During WW II the Catholic Croates supported by
the Italians used the opportunity and "unleashed a campaign of expulsions,
forced conversion and extermination against the Orthodox Serbs [killing
350.000 Serbs in the process]. Muslims in Bosnia-Herzegovina took a hand in
the civil war also, while in the South the Serbs of Kossovo (his spelling)
were attacked by  their Albanian neighbours." (p.52)

Against the background of the militarization of people not only in the
Balkans but globally, since the end of WW II, at the cost of 50 million
lives, to no avail,  Keegan made in 1992 the following observation ( with
which I agree) :

"Despite confusion and uncertainty, it seems just possible to glimpse the
emerging outline of a world without war. It would be a bold man to argue
that war was going out of fashion. The resurgent nationalism of the peoples
of the Balkans and of former Soviet Transcaucasia, which have found
expression in war making of a particular abhorrent kind, give the lie to
that. Such wars, however, lack the menace raised by similar conflicts in
the pre-nuclear world. They provoke not the threat of sponsorship by
opposed great-power patrons, with all the danger of ramification that such
sponsorship implies, but a humanitarian urge to intervene in the cause of
peace-making. Prospects of peace-making may be illusory. The Balkan and
Transcaucasia conflicts are ancient in origin and seem to have as their
objective that 'territorial displacement' familiar to anthropologists from
their study of 'primitive war'. Such conflicts by their nature defy efforts
at mediation from outside, since they are fed by passions and rancours that
do not yield to rational measures of persuasion and control; they are
apolitical, to a degree for which Clausewitz made little allowance.

"Yet the fact that effort is being made betokens a profound change in
civilization's attitude to war. The effort at peace-making is motivated not
by calculation of political interest but by repulsion from the spectacle of
what war does. The impulse is humanitarian, and though humanitarians are
old opponents of war making, humanitarianism has not before been declared a
chief principle of great power's foreign policy, as it has now by the
United States, nor has it found an effective supranational body to give it
force, as it has recently in the United Nations, nor has it found tangible
support from a wide body of disinterested states, willing to show their
commitment to the principle by the dispatch of peace-keeping, and
potentially peace-making forces to the seat of conflict." (p.58)

Although humanitarians and other members of the peace movement may continue
to disagree with NATO's role in the Kosovo Albanian Serbian conflict, John
Keegan was able to correctly anticipate in 1992  NATO's 1999 bombing
campaign and its "humanitarian" intentions.  
Looking forward to your response


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